Seven tips for managing storage in the new data center

Only buy standards-based management tools and other suggestions.

1. Only buy standards-based management tools. For storage, this means complying with the Storage Networking Industry Association's Storage Management Interface Standard (SMI-S). Most large vendors recognize the necessity of this and are moving toward compliance, frequently with the help of technology providers AppIQ and Crosswalk. Compliance applies to hardware and software vendors, so learn more about this standard and, when you put out an RFP, consider making SMI-S compliance a check-off item.

2. Automate, automate, automate . In utility environments, assets are constantly allocated and reallocated and scripts changed (and tested) every time the environment is modified. You must apply policy-based management to all operations involved in the discovery, allocation and use of resources. Automating with policy-based management lessens the chance for human error affecting the system.

3. Document best practices , then when it comes time to automate, transfer that information to the policies being built.

4. Don't narrow your options . Computer Associates, HP and IBM are likely management choices because they build the enterprise frameworks, but storage powerhouses such as EMC and Veritas - plus several smaller companies - might prove to offer excellent alternatives. The key is commitment to SMI-S and other industry-supported interfaces.

5. Test data migration plans before implementing them . Plan on a whiteboard or with an Excel spreadsheet and you will never be able to test the effect of moving data to a new storage environment. Fortunately, new products from companies such as Onaro let you plan your changes, understand their impact, test and validate an implementation, document its effects, and maintain an ongoing events analysis.

6. Look for the cause of problems, not just the symptoms . If all you can do is report a problem, you are more likely to unleash a blizzard of trouble tickets than achieve a quick resolution. Singling out and analyzing the root cause of a problem makes more sense than just identifying the symptoms. If you have this ability on your servers, you also should have it for the paths that connect them. Products from CentrePath and EMC, via Smarts, come in handy.

7. Don't let tradition weigh you down. Clearly, all organizations want to move toward simpler management environments, hoping they will reduce cost and complexity, mitigate risk, improve compliance with service-level agreements and regulations, and ultimately provide IT services that are always available, secure and efficiently delivered. But many IT managers remain wedded to management tools they've been working with for years or to the "IT social alignment" of separate application, server, network and storage administrators. You've got to consider the efficiencies and potential business advantage that moving to automated, integrated management will offer. A comprehensive model on a financial spreadsheet should provide the evidence you need.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.